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Why educators are asking McDonald’s to stop holding McTeacher’s Nights

In this Jan. 21, 2014 file photo, cars drive past the McDonald’s Golden Arches logo at a McDonald’s restaurant in Robinson Township, Pa. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)

(Update: Adding McDonald’s comment)

If you’ve never heard of McTeacher’s Night by McDonald’s, here’s  a little background from the Web site:

McTeacher’s Night is a popular and highly visible fundraising program that takes place in McDonald’s restaurants. Educators, students, parents, and friends are invited to their local McDonald’s to “work” and raise money for a designated school related cause. Monies go towards sports uniforms, band equipment, theater needs — whatever the school decides! Parents and children are encouraged to come to their local McDonald’s to see their very own educators serve up hamburgers, fries and shakes! A portion of the sales from a designated time period is donated to the school for its specific fundraising need.

Now the nation’s largest teachers union and state and local unions as well as education groups, professors and other individuals are calling on McDonald’s to stop the program. A letter (see text below) written and organized by Corporate Accountability International and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says McTeacher’s Nights “undermine” efforts to teach children how to eat properly. It says in part (with footnotes removed):

It is wrong to enlist teachers to sell kids on a brand like McDonald’s whose core products are burgers, fries, and soda. Marketing junk food to children is a harmful practice. We are in the midst of the largest preventable health crisis in the U.S.—one that is spreading throughout the world, and that increasingly affects children. If this trend is not reversed, many children will be burdened with diet-related diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes, affecting their heath for life.
Health professionals on the front lines of treating these diseases have long urged you to stop targeting children. The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend restrictions on junk food marketing to children. Study after study from esteemed organizations such as the Institute of Medicine and the National Bureau of Economic Research suggest that junk food marketing targeted at kids is a serious health concern.
McTeacher’s Nights undermine these important efforts, exploiting educators’ authority and popularity to lure kids to McDonald’s. Transforming teachers into McDonald’s marketers is particularly egregious in light of a recent study in Clinical Pediatrics linking fast food consumption with lower educational outcomes.

Here’s a response from McDonald’s USA:

McTeacher’s Nights are all about community, fun and fundraising. As parents and members of their communities, McDonald’s franchisees and our corporate restaurants have long supported what matters most to them. McTeacher’s Nights are one example.
Teachers and parent teacher organizations have a choice in how they seek to raise additional funds, and for years they have told McDonald’s and franchisees that, in addition to the extra financial support these events provide for their schools, they have a great time connecting with their students and neighbors.

Lisa McComb, McDonald’s USA’s director of media relations also said that the company owns approximately 10% of the McDonald’s restaurants across the country, and from January 2013 through September 2015, the company-owned restaurants have paid over $2,525,000 to organizations for donations from McTeacher Nights.

Here’s the full letter: